Just one day before the Jets are set to take on the San Diego Chargers, Mark Cannizzaro of the New York Daily News reports that, after surveying about half the roster, the Jets are unanimously in support of their beleaguered head coach.
In the article, Cannizzaro quoted Bryan Thomas, an 11-year veteran who has played for Herman Edwards and Eric Mangini as well. Thomas is one of the most well-respected leaders in the clubhouse and is a trustworthy source of input.
Thomas showed unquestioned support of Ryan:
This could be a period of time where guys just quit on him, wanting to start making vacation plans, but it has not been like that at all. Rex has held this thing together despite the circumstances of this past week and I commend him for that, said Thomas. "I could not imagine Rex not being here. I promise you Rex is great for this team.’
After last season's collapse over the final three games, reports surfaced about a great divide in the Jets locker room, often featuring bitter malcontent LaDainian Tomlinson.
Ryan admitted that he lost the pulse of the locker room last season and wasn't aware of any discontent. Ryan promised to change and he most definitely did.
Ryan has stuck his neck out in support of his players and coaches, and even though most of the media and fans do not recognize what he is doing, his players certainly do.
By sticking with Mark Sanchez, despite being publicly crucified by Tim Tebow supporters and impatient Jets fans, Ryan sent a resounding message to his players. He showed that he will support his players long after everyone else has bailed on them.
This didn't just happen with Sanchez either.
Ryan could have easily sent Bart Scott to the bench in favor of rookie Demario Davis, especially when Davis played well filling in for Scott while he healed from his toe injury.
Instead, Ryan stuck by his policy that players do not lose their spot due to injury.
Ryan allowed LaRon Landry to practice at a more relaxed rate from the second he got here, a plan that has played a large part in Landry staying healthy this year and putting together a Pro-Bowl type of season.
He also publicly pumped up Antonio Cromartie once Darrelle Revis went down, touted new Jet Yeremiah Bell as a leader from the second he got here and has been an ardent supporter all season long of Muhammad Wilkerson, who has developed into one of the best young defensive players in the AFC.
The quotes from players in Cannizzaro's article are very telling and have a common theme.
Scott said, "Nobody has imploded, nobody has turned on each other. That’s a reflection of the respect everyone has for him.’’
“Rex has always been a man of principle and loyalty,’’ said Sione Po’uha, a defensive tackle who has battled a bad back all season.
Even new players like Bell were willing to go on the record to speak of Ryan in glowing terms.
“Coach Ryan is well respected in this locker room. It’s been a pleasure to play for him. Hands down, he’s one of my favorite coaches I’ve played for," said Bell, who has also played for Dave Wannstedt, Jim Bates, Tony Sparano, Cam Cameron, Todd Bowles and Nick Saban while in the pros.
The list of players who spoke out on the record in favor of Ryan also included Joe McKnight, Mike DeVito and Chaz Schilens.
Ryan hasn't had a perfect season by any means, and he deserves some of the blame for the Jets downfall this year.
The handling of the quarterback situation ultimately falls on Ryan, even though it's the offensive coordinator, Sparano, who develops the game plans for whoever lines up under center.
But even with that glaring mistake, you won't find a player who wishes there was someone else in charge. Ryan doesn't put a muzzle on his players or assistants the way most coaches do. He respects his players and treats them like men, taking the most vicious slings and arrows from the media for them.
In response to reports that defensive coordinator Mike Pettine turned down a contract extension—a situation that was played up as a slight to the Jets—Ryan heaped so much praise upon his trusted assistant that it sounded like an endorsement to those NFL teams that might be lining up to snag him from the Jets.
One other consideration Cannizzaro raised in his article: If Ryan were to leave, who would replace him?
Hotshot college coaches rarely work out, and even the best NFL assistants are a crap shoot. Over the past two years, the list of coaches hired by NFL teams includes Ron Rivera, Pat Shurmur, Chuck Pagano, Mike Mularkey, Romeo Crennel, Joe Philbin, Dennis Allen, Jim Harbaugh and Greg Schiano.
From that group, only Harbaugh has been a winner from the start and most of those teams will find themselves starting over again real soon.
Hiring a new coach would demoralize a locker room that clearly supports Ryan. Stability goes a long way in establishing credibility with your players and continuing to build going forward.
Ryan has shown the ability to win when he's given the players and now has shown the ability to keep a locker room together during tough times. On the field, he once again has a top-10 defense and has overseen the development of youngsters like Wilkerson, Quinton Coples, Demario Davis and Antonio Allen.
Starting over with a new coach would set the franchise back further than anyone realizes. Teams like the Detroit Lions, Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Oakland Raiders change coaches more than anyone.
How has that worked out for them?
The only discernible flaw in Ryan's head-coaching ability is his disconnect with the offense. He has put his trust in his offensive coordinators, and neither Sparano nor his predecessor, Brian Schottenheimer, were up to the task.
Ryan needs to be given an experienced and successful partner to run the offense, and he can handle everything else.
The players have spoken and they are more important than any media member or crazy fan who wants to blow up the entire team after finishing in the middle of the pack the past two years.
Follow RC Cos and the B/R Jets Report on Twitter: @BR_Jets_Report
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